Arianna Huffington: Getting Spanked on Katrina: Heck of a Job, Harry!


This weekend, my friend Harry Shearer took me and my Left, Right, and Center cohorts to the cyber woodshed for not giving the proper attention (alright, any attention) to the remarkable Army Corps of Engineers report accepting responsibility for the flooding of New Orleans. Here was the money spank: “It was astonishing to listen to these four natter on about the Treasury Secretary, while culpability for the worst man-made engineering disaster in the nation’s history was ignored.”
Ouch. And touché. While part of me wants to explain that I had ceded the HuffPost Katrina beat to Harry, who has done a remarkable job of keeping us informed on all the developments from New Orleans, the truth is, he’s right. We cannot let Katrina and the sputtering efforts to rebuild the Gulf be shoved to the back of the priority line.
Harry’s jab got me to thinking about why this has happened. Why, despite the occasional big story hitting the front page of the New York Times or leading the nightly news, the event John Zogby predicts will become more of a defining moment for America’s future than 9/11, has been largely forgotten by the public — and, even more critically, by our leaders.
Now, I understand why the GOP has been only too happy to sweep it under the rug. The last things they want voters reminded of are Bush playing that guitar while New Orleans drowned, his presidential flyover, his promise to rebuild Trent Lott’s house, and the glaring chasm between his post-Katrina rhetoric — “We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives” — and the stark current reality. Over nine months later, 250,000 are still homeless or displaced, bodies are still being found, tens of thousands of homes still need rebuilding, disaster preparedness for New Orleans has been cut in half, and hurricane recovery funding is still slogging its way through Congress.
But why are Democrats sending mixed messages about Katrina? Yes, the Democratic National Committee held its annual spring meeting in April in New Orleans, saying the devastated city would be a symbolic image for the 2006 campaign. “The Republicans,” said Howard Dean, “have cut and run when it comes to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, and we will not do that.”
But yesterday, on the floor of the Senate, while denouncing the ludicrousness of the GOP’s pandering gay marriage ban, Harry Reid castigated the administration for avoiding the most pressing issues facing Americans: “high gas prices, the war in Iraq, the national debt, health care, senior citizens, education, crime, trade policies, stem cell research.” Notice Katrina didn’t even make the list. An incontrovertible testament to the incompetence and misplaced priorities of the GOP, yet New Orleans doesn’t even beat out stem cell research in Reid’s Top Nine concerns?
I couldn’t help but wonder if Katrina didn’t make the cut because it’s not polling very well these days. In a recent Fox News poll listing the 20 issues Americans are most concerned about, Katrina landed with a thud at number 18 [pdf]. In the latest CBS poll of the top 8 most important problems facing the country, it didn’t even make the list.
Back in September 2005, in the wake of the disaster, Americans deemed recovery from Hurricane Katrina the highest priority facing the White House and Congress in an AP poll.
It was also front and center on Reid’s agenda, as he delivered the opening remarks at a Democratic forum on “Meeting America’s Economic Challenge in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina,” saying: “Our first priority is making sure victims receive the assistance they need. This includes housing, health care and financial relief. We’ve done some work, but not nearly enough. America can do better.”
I did note that Reid managed to work the Dems abysmal slogan into both speeches, ending yesterday’s Senate speech with: “Together, America Can Do Better.”
So can the Democrats. Eight years ago, Harry Shearer and I started the Partnership for a Poll-Free America to free our leaders from sticking their fingers in the political wind, feeling which way it’s blowing, and then chasing after the fickle gusts of public sentiment. Real leadership has always been about determining the direction the country needs to go in and convincing the public that it’s the right direction.
As I blogged yesterday, Democrats need to make the tragic war in Iraq and how it’s made America less safe the top issue in the 2006 election. And Katrina should be the domestic companion piece. As I wrote on Sept 7, 2005: “The debacle in New Orleans contains all the elements necessary to show how Bush’s misguided priorities — especially his obsession with Iraq — have left us far more vulnerable, unsafe, and insecure. It’s the perfect opportunity to redefine national security in a way that would ironically — by putting America first — most appeal to the red states.”
Thanks for the reminder, Harry.


5 comments on “Arianna Huffington: Getting Spanked on Katrina: Heck of a Job, Harry!

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  3. joe compton says:

    The people of New Orleans have for a half of a century been the strongest bastion of the Democratic Party in the Deep South. Katrina and Bush’s usual incompetant crew have sent 400,000 Americans from the Gulf Coast into exile. Now the Democratic party refuses to stand forthrightly with the people of New Orleans and Mississippi to preserve their communities. Morally, this is indefensible; politically, it is short-sighted in the extreme. A reasoned principled response by Dems for the people of New Orleans and Mississippi is both morally and politically an imperative. Now that the Army Corps of E has admitted their responsibility in setting this disaster on its inevitable course, Republicans can not hide behind Louisiana corruption memes to avoid discussing the restoration of the Gulf Coast.
    Harry Reid, rework that list immediately!


  4. Pissed Off American says:

    Geez, Arianna…where do we begin on all the issues that have come and gone that prove what a bunch of lying scheming despicable inept criminals are squatting in the White House??? The insanely inadequate response while a bunch of maniacs were flying jet liners around looking for a target??? Lying about the WMDS in Iraq??? Telling the poor bastards in Manhattan, after 9/11, that the air was OK and they could go back to work? Some gay whore and pornographer doing sleep overs in the West Wing, masquerading as a journalist? Two STOLEN presidential elections??? The Downing Street Memo??? Gonzales apparently LYING HIS SLIMEY ASS OFF about his role in Bush’s recusal from jury duty during the confirmation hearings???? How about those two dog and pony shows, the Tillman affair and the Jessica Lynch fiction??? Or BUYING propaganda to be sold to Americans as REAL NEWS??? Katrina is just one more glaring example of how this is the most criminal and inept presidential administration in the history of our nation. And are we supposed to be SUPRISED when you people are rope-a-doped by these fucking scumbags, as they try to use the gay marriage issue to snag a few more ignorant redneck psuedo-Christian votes???? Katrina isn’t the ONLY issue these pricks are getting a free ride on, Arianna, and it sure as hell ain’t going to be the last one. We have THREE MORE YEARS of these sons of bitches. Trust me, they will provide us with plenty more of these disasters, travesties, and debacles to be ignored by our mainstream media. Heck, something tells me they are just getting warmed up, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet……..


  5. Robert M says:

    The reason the Democrats have not responded is institutional racism/classism at the highest level. This racism has two parts. One is the current fervor over Jefferson actions which brought a new sheriff into the House and his own despicable actions of corruption and self-centered importance. The other is how to respond to the demands of the Caucasian residents of the Gulf Coast
    Just remember in New Orleans as a Parish it was the predominately African-American 9th Ward which was destroyed. Adjacent to it is St Bernards Parish which was totally wiped out and was predominately Caucasian. With those residents and most others on the Texas gulf coast to the Florida Panhandle suffering in tent cities silently how can you as a party respond to a vocal minority hated by most of the citizens of the area.
    Worse, the Democratic party is incapable of providing a rationale for government services to these citizens whom are most in need and whom have sworn on a pack of Bibles they do not need the government.


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